Winter is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to start winterizing the chicken coop and preparing your chickens for what’s to come!
Chickens, contrary to popular belief, are not necessarily bothered by cold. In fact, their thick coat of feathers is more than enough to keep them warm in most situations.
But what is important for a flock’s health and safety is that they stay dry and draft free. Because if a chicken’s feathers do get wet and saturated, they lose their warming capability. And that is when the trouble can begin.
Here is a look at how to make sure you, your chickens, and your chicken coop are ready for ol’ man winter.
How To Prepare Chickens And Their Coop For Winter – Winterizing 101
Preparing Your Chickens…
First, let’s start with the chickens. Chickens burn a lot more calories in the winter trying to stay warm. And that means their diet has to be adjusted accordingly.
In the wintertime, chickens benefit greatly from added carbs. Start by making sure your feed is a well balanced blend of nutrients with protein and carbs. Pelleted feeds are usually fairly well balanced, and perfect for winter feeding.
But from there, you can also give them a few supplements to provide even more carbs. Cracked corn is one of the best and one of our favorites. Not only does it help to fill them up, it also gives them an energy boost of carbs to keep warmer.
Black oil sunflower seeds and scratch grains are also excellent choices for supplemental feeding too. All help to provide the additional nutrition chickens need and use in the winter.
Winterizing The Chicken Coop
Now that we have covered the chickens and their diet, it’s time to look at making their home as safe and warm as possible for winter.
Cover Open Windows
First and foremost, it is important in cold winter climates to keep wind, drafts, and precipitation out of the coop. Open or screened windows can easily let blowing snow or chilly rains find a way into the coop.
And when that occurs, it isn’t long before their straw and bedding material becomes saturated as well.
As nightly temperatures begin to drop, closing off windows and screens with glass, plexiglass, or even clear plastic is a must. This not only keeps drafts out, but allows light into the coop. And that light can be vital to both egg production and the chicken’s health.
In years past, we have used old window pane sashes to cover the screened windows of our coop. This year, with the new coop, we opted to use 1/4″ plexiglass , screwing it right into the window frames to keep the air and precipitation out.
Winterizing A Chicken Coop’s Door
Now that the window openings are safe and secure, lets talk about chicken doors. Chickens will still venture outside during the day as long as the weather permits.
But doors left open around the clock can drop the temperature of a coop dramatically. Especially at night when the temperatures can really plummet.
We keep our chicken doors closed completely from dusk to dawn, and open during the day. But for winter, we use rubber flaps over the door to keep out the air and keep the coop warmer.
We make our own flaps by cutting up a rubber floor mat and then screw them over the door. The chickens learn how to walk through fairly quickly, especially when there is a treat outside!
Here also is where out auto door is so helpful! It opens and closes on a light setting for dusk and dawn. One thing is for sure, it takes the human error of forgetting to open and close the door! See : The Greatest Invention Ever, The Automatic Chicken Door
Although covering windows and doors is vital to winterizing a chicken coop, it’s also important to make sure coop still has some air flow for adequate ventilation.
Fresh air to a coop is critical to keep poultry respiratory diseases at bay, and to keep chickens healthy.
If your coop does not have vents, now is the time to install one! Cutting in a vent near the roof line or on a side wall allows stale air to escape, and fresh air enter the coop.
Warming The Coop
Finally, let’s talk about coop warmth. As we covered earlier, chickens are bothered more by drafts than cold. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to keep some heat in the coop.
A bit of heat will help to keep water and eggs from freezing and allow for more comfortable chickens. But that heat can come from natural sources.
We use what is known as the deep litter method to help warm and winterize our chicken coop. Instead of cleaning out all of the straw and manure in the winter, we simply add in a bit more straw each week to keep it fresh.
But as the manure below the straw breaks down, it gives off heat that helps to warm the coop. It is a method that has worked for many a chicken farmer for years!
Additional Heat Sources
Depending on how cold your location gets in the overnight, a supplemental heat source in addition to the deep litter method can be beneficial.
Something as simple as a 60 watt bulb or a small heat lamp can take the extreme cold out of a coop quickly. It has the added benefit of providing additional light for the chickens too.
But whatever you do, protect the heat source from the chickens! A cage around the light will keep the chickens from ever touching the bulb, and keep the coop and the birds safe.
Here is to winterizing your chicken coop now, and having happy, healthy chickens all winter long! Happy chicken farming – Jim and Mary.
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